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Neurocognitive health: A focus on LGBTQIA+ older adults

On May 17, 2024, the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, with the theme “No one left behind: Equality, Freedom, and Justice for All”, an international research team has made the decision to speak out in order to promote research into the health of seniors who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual, and individuals with other sexual orientations and forms of gender expression (LGBTQIA+).

Under the direction of Dr. Riccardo Manca (Brunel University London, UK and Università degli studi di Parma, Italy), Dr. Jhon Alexander Moreno,  Director of the Innovation, Technology and Cognition laboratory (INTECOG), Clinical Researcher at CRIUGM and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montreal, joined the group of researchers to write the article to outline the current state of research on the neurocognitive health of LGBTQIA+ older people.

The research team, which also includes Dr. Alessandra Nicoletti (University of Catania, Italy), Dr. Neil J. Henderson (University of the Western Cape, South Africa) and Dr. Jason D. Flatt (University of Nevada, USA), notes that several physical and mental health disparities have been documented among the population of Gender and Sexual Minorities (GSM).

In addition, compared to heterosexual and cisgender older adults, GSM older adults experience higher rates of subjective cognitive decline. The unfavorable social conditions that GSM older people may face more frequently could explain these disparities.

However, there are very few studies on the elderly GSM population. While studies have attempted to quantify differences in cognitive health between sexual and gender minority and non-minority older people, few have focused on the factors behind potential disparities.

It is therefore necessary to study the possible causes and risk factors that may explain the increased risk of dementia in elderly GSM. This can be explained, among other things, by the lack of data on sexual orientation and gender identity in samples of older people, which are very rarely collected in most epidemiological cohort studies. In addition, studies have shown that the elderly population (+65 years old) identifies significantly less as GSM than individuals in the 16–24-year-old range.

Given the very small population, researchers Manca, Moreno, Nicoletti, Henderson and Flatt then raise the problem of the generalization of the results, which they also extend to the lack of ethnic and sociocultural diversity. Indeed, in quantitative surveys on the cognitive health of sexual and gender minorities, non-white people are, for example, systematically underrepresented.

Through this article published in the Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the research team wished to take stock of the emerging field of neurocognitive health in GMS older people, providing an overview of current knowledge as well as limitations. The suggestions for improvement proposed to address these shortcomings are intended to encourage reflection among researchers in aging and those responsible for epidemiological studies on the consequences of a lack of inclusion of GMS seniors in their research.

Indeed, the exclusion of sexual and gender diversity from analysis variables risks neglecting part of the population and contributing to social and access inequalities for various aging populations.

Source :
Neurocognitive health in LGBTQIA+ older adults: Current state of research and recommendations
Riccardo Manca, Alexander Moreno, Alessandra Nicoletti, Neil J. Henderson, Jason D. Flatt

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